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The Neuroscience of Cracking an Egg

There's a well-known story in the food studies world involving the acceptance, and eventual dominance, of pre-made cake mixes. In the 1950s, housewives were hesitant to buy cake mixes until General Mills started selling Betty Crocker mixes that required the cook to add fresh eggs as part of the preparation process. At that point, sales shot through the roof.

Blogger Harry Bringull at 90 Percent of Everything offer a pretty interesting explanation of why:

The Danger of Measuring Emotions

An easy way to identify a future dilemma is to spot two polar, but entirely sensible, reactions to an emerging practice or technology.

The Salmon Pairs Well with Miles Davis

An interesting study sponsored by Unilever took a look at how background music and sound alter the perception of taste. Among other things, that "foods seemed to taste less salty or sugary as the noise level increase – and more so when noise decreases."

Measuring How Well We Work Together

During the recent Breakthroughs to Cures game, which we ran in collaboration with the Myelin Repair Foundation, one of the key themes that emerged was that basic science research would be aided by a lot more collaboration. While this sounds nice in theory, one of the challenges is that it's easy to evaluate researchers by the number of papers they have published, but it's much harder to measure collaboration, much less base tenure and promotions and the like on how well on works with others.

On Anticipatory Quarantines

A leading researcher at Microsoft last week suggested that computers that have been infected with viruses should be, in effect, quarantined from accessing the Internet to avoid spreading potentially dangerous mischief into the broader network. The researcher suggested that safe computers could be issued a "health certificate," once virus-free, indicating that the computer is free, once again, to roam the world.

You're Not Popular Enough for the Flu Shot

I'm a little late to this great study by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler about the possibilities of using social network analysis to predict flu outbreaks, but it's well worth highlighting. The premise of their study is that certain members of social networks can function as "sensors" that indicate the emergence of a flu or other outbreak.

Microfinancing Science

Via Science Insider comes word of an intriguing effort to bring the concept of microfinance to scientific research. Called SciFlies is reminiscent of Kickstarter. Researchers can post information about their research project, and users can send over small donations to fund their work.

How Our Bodies are Becoming Social

As part of the Chronicle of Higher Education's series on ideas and issues that will define the coming decade, Alondra Nelson writes about an idea we've been kicking around for a while: That over the next decade, she argues, our DNA will do as much to define our social interactions as it will do to define our health experiences.

As Nelson puts it:

If the therapeutic utility of the genome is somewhat intangible, the social life of DNA is unmistakable.

Looking Beyond Standardized Foods

A few months ago, I happened upon an outstanding, if brief article in Wired about all of the processes involved in making a bag of Cheetos. My favorite step, far and away, is quality control, which the article's author Brendan Koerner describes as involving:

Take This Anti-Depressant--Courtesy of Your Social Network

A great feature in The Economist highlights the variety of ways businesses and researchers are looking at analyzing the intricacies of our social networks and digital trails to understand who influences us, who we influence, and what that could mean for the world at large. This isn't a new field, per se, but the breadth and subtlety of the analysis, as well as the potential quality of their conclusion, is pretty mind-blowing.

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